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I'm really pleased that people seem to like the new collection of seasonal stories 'A Christmas Cracker ' .  This latest 5 sta...

Friday, 25 February 2011

There's no call for it!

The British Customer Experience can be summed up in one well known phrase or saying.  No, not that one, that is just obscene and doesn’t become you at all.  What I had in mind was that perennial cry “there’s no call for it”?  Following, as it always does, an enquiry about the goods or service concerned, it neatly contradicts its own assertion and yet stops all further debate in its tracks.  What it really means is “we couldn’t be bothered with it”.  It says, in loud ringing tones, “we are not here to provide a service for you, we are here to make money for us”.

It has a very distinguished history.  It was the answer given by the first inventor of the wheel, when asked if he (or, I suppose, she) was going to make another one.  It was the response from IBM when they were asked if they were likely to make more than three computers.  It would probably be the answer obtained if you asked Bill Gates why it wasn’t possible to build a PC that didn’t require you to know how it works in order to actually make it work. 

Everyone has a story to tell of how this particular phrase has blighted their life.  For example, some friends and I regularly visit an out-of-the-way pub, which necessitates one of us having to drive.  A little while ago, the pub installed a certain low-alcohol draught lager that was actually quite palatable and which enabled the nominated driver to convince himself that he was actually enjoying a drink instead of enduring round after round of overpriced fruit-flavoured carbonated water.  This lager was the subject of an intensive TV, Radio and Billboard advertising campaign and the pub’s well filled car park tended to indicate a ready market.  Nevertheless, a few weeks’ ago, the lager disappeared.  When we asked why, you can guess the answer.  To add insult to injury, the promotional drip mats advertising the lager only appeared on the tables after the lager was no longer available.

Then there’s that wonderful British fast-food institution, the Fish and Chip shop.  Try visiting during the last half-hour before they close and see if you can actually purchase the items advertised for sale.  My guess is that you will be told that they’re very sorry but they have sold out of fish and chips and it isn’t worth frying any more at this time because “there isn’t any call for it”.  Instead, you’re likely to be offered something that they cooked (to use the term loosely) earlier and have not been able to shift onto their more discerning clientele.  This explains why people come staggering out of chip shops late at night with a pineapple fritter, a saveloy, and a pot of lukewarm baked beans.  Any attempt to circumvent the iron rule of “there’s no call for it” by negotiation and/or wheedling (“Surely it wouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to fry a fish for me?”) will be met with the sentence’s other great accompanying contradiction “If I did it for you, sir, I would have to do it for everyone, wouldn’t I?”

Take Post Offices (an activity currently occupying the Government).  Why are Post Offices up and down the land closing?  Fill in the relevant sentence here.  But then again, why do Post Offices keep odd opening hours that would be more in keeping with 1950s Britain when everywhere else seems to open 24/7?  You’ve guessed it!  Apparently it’s a service that not enough people want, but when they do want it, they conveniently only want it at times that suit the people running the Post Office.

To cite another example, a few years ago my wife and I decided to attempt to escape the worst of the UK festive season (which would actually involve a six month vacation starting in September, if taken literally) and go to Tenerife for Christmas.  To update my holiday apparel, I needed to buy myself some shorts (not an appealing picture, I’ll grant you).  Have you ever tried to buy holiday items, such as shorts, in November?  The clothing shop concerned had the stock (or out-of-stock) answer “there’s no call for them at this time of year, sir” but grudgingly dug around in the stock room for a while and came up with a choice of two that they had not been able to foist on anyone in the Summer (the fashion equivalent of the pineapple fritter).  So what do all of those people booking Winter Sun holidays do?  Buy up their tropical togs in a purchasing frenzy during the few brief weeks designated by the clothing fraternity as Summer, or just hang on to the same old items until such time as they either fall apart or become indecent, or both (my personal policy)?  By the same token, just try buying a jumper in June.

Of course, anything for which there really isn’t any call will be forced on you whether you like it or not.  In evidence, I submit digital television, environmentally-friendly light bulbs and chip and pin cards.  Nothing will convince me that these have come about as a consequence of the clamour from the consuming public.  At least with analogue television, if the signal was interrupted you simply had an annoying buzz across the screen, with digital the whole picture either freezes or vanishes altogether.  Environmentally-friendly light bulbs bring back all the efficiency of illumination by gaslight without any of the period charm and chip and pin cards just overtax your already overburdened memory without even remotely increasing your security.

Some modern variations on the “there’s no call for it” routine are “it’s against Health and Safety”, which roughly translates as “It looks like hard work and I can’t be bothered” or the superb “it’s against Company Policy” which also translates as “It looks like hard work and I can’t be bothered and, best of all, the Company doesn’t care!”

I would go on but…(fill in well known phrase or saying).